'Too few' nurses for elderly care
There are too few nurses on wards to provide basic, safe care to older people, a union has warned.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the elderly are being let down by low staffing levels across the NHS.
It is calling on the Government to implement a patient guarantee, setting out the minimum number of nurses on older people's wards.
While its own research shows one nurse currently cares for about nine elderly patients, the RCN said one nurse to seven patients should be the maximum ratio for providing basic, safe care.
Ideally, there should be at least one registered nurse for between five and seven patients, it added.
A survey of almost 1,700 nurses, including 240 working on wards for older people, found 78% said comforting and talking to patients was not done or done inadequately on their last shift due to low staff numbers.
Some 59% said promoting mobility and self care was left undone or unfinished, while 34% said they could not help patients with food and drink.
A third (33%) said they were unable to fully help patients to the toilet or manage incontinence.
But Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: "Mandatory staffing levels can not guarantee safe care.
"We do not believe that imposing a crude system of staffing ratios is the right way to tackle poor care."